The grim economics of the $65-million <i>Spider-Man</i> musical

It will take the troubled Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark four years to recoup its initial $65-million original investment, according to number-crunching by The New York Times.

Writing on the newspaper's Economix blog, economics editor Catherine Rampell cautions that's just a rough estimate that excludes merchandising sales -- those can be lucrative for hit shows on the scale of The Lion King or Wicked -- but somewhat generously assumes that 96 percent of the Foxwoods Theatre's 1,932 available seats will be sold each week.

So, yes, Rampell's calculations require some educated guesswork, but they make it clear that, even with the repeated delays, injuries and a problem-filled preview seemingly behind them, the producers of Spider-Man still have a difficult row to hoe. The combination of an established property with a visionary creative team might seem like a formula for success, but as Rampell notes, for every Lion King or Wicked there's a Little Mermaid or Shrek the Musical. The latter, which cost an estimated $24 million -- until Spider-Man came along, it was the most expensive production in Broadway history -- ran for slightly more than a year, before closing in January.

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